Peter Coker studied in London at St Martin's School of Art (1941-1943) before enlisting in the Fleet Air Arm (1943-1946) during World War II. After the war, he returned to St Martin's (1947-1949) before moving to the Royal College of Art (1950-1954), where he won a Royal Scholarship in 1951 and a British Institution Scholarship in 1953. He returned to St Martin's to teach painting (1954-1973) and then taught at the City and Guilds of London Art School (1973-1985).
Studying at the Royal College of Art at the same time as Coker were Jack Smith, John Bratby, Derek Greaves and Edward Middleditch, who became known as the Kitchen Sink School, a term coined by the critic David Sylvester in response to their unique brand of realism inspired by everyday domestic life in post-war Britain. While Coker also painted gritty scenes in an unsentimental, realist manner, as visible in Table and Chair (1955) and his series of paintings of animal carcasses inspired by a butcher's shop near his home in Leytonstone, these did not constitute a conscious stand against fashionable modernism but rather represented formal exercises in observation, composition and expression. Coker had discovered the work of Gustave Courbet while visiting Paris in 1950 and, inspired by Courbet, had began to paint landscapes from nature in Normandy and Brittany by the mid-1950s. He continued to use bold colours in his landscapes, using thickly impasted paint to capture the power of natural forces. He also painted in Devon, Cornwall, Essex and, towards the end of his life, in northwest Scotland.
Coker published a book, Etching Techniques, in 1976. He became an Associate of the Royal College of Art in 1953, was elected a Royal Academician in 1972, and won an Arts Council Award in 1976.
BENEZIT DICTIONARY OF ARTISTS